According to Simone Lis, president of BC’s Better Business Bureau, this is due to the incredibly high demand for the few affordable rentals on the market: Accommodations in general have become significantly less available and more competitive.
“People are looking for vacation spaces, long-term rentals, and they may have less money to try to find things, so there’s high demand.”
This situation has created a problem for post-secondary students, who are among those most susceptible to these scams. Lis highlights that the most common type of scam reported by post-secondary students is where a rental is offered at a convenient location for a low price.
“Unfortunately, what they [students] hear when they talk to someone is that this person has this great space, they’re moving out of the country and looking for someone really responsible, and they need money to secure the space right away. And so the student reaches out, sends them a deposit, and then ultimately finds out that they were dealing with a scammer.”
Fortunately, there are ways for students to protect themselves from these kinds of scams. Lis advises to look out for signs that a rental offer could be a scam. One of the signs is a high urgency to send deposits using a traceless method.
“They want you to transfer money through wire transfer; we’ve heard of people asking for money through Bitcoin as well…something that’s untraceable where you can’t get your money back.”
Lis says it comes down to doing research when looking for affordable rentals and trying to avoid scams. She goes on to say that there are several methods for assessing whether a rental offer is genuine. “Make sure you’re…checking out the property and meeting with the homeowner. This way, you can get some sense of assurance that this is a legitimate offer.”
For those who cannot visit a rental property in person, Internet searches are suitable.
“I would be googling the address. I’d be doing reverse image searches as well. If that posting shows up in another city with [identical] details, that in itself is very suspicious.”
She adds that it’s always best to ask the landlord to provide a contract that can verify the authenticity.
“I would be looking for some sort of contract where you’re able to fill out your account and your information and show that the party that you’re dealing with is legitimate.”
Lis also says to consider investigating the listing if a rental company owns the property.
“I might be looking at some of those associations to see if the organization belongs to an association. It’s not always an individual who’s renting property. It can be a property owner company as well.”
Lis recommends that, in the end, students should be vigilant. With record inflation driving up demand for the few affordable rentals on the market, it’s best to research and confirm the validity of what’s available to avoid being scammed.